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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Purple Pill or Purple Poison?

Lo and behold a bastion of TV advertising - acid reflux pills - may in fact not be helping people.

According to this recent WSJ article up to one half (1/2) of those with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) taking proton pump inhibitors don't get any help with their symptoms.

Not that these pills are a good idea in the first place.

For one thing your stomach acid (which the pills inhibit production of) is key to your immune system.  Your stomach acid kills bad bacteria you ingest.  (You dog's stomach acid is about seven times stronger than yours which is why he can snack on week old sun dried moles without suffering ill effects.)

Its also required for proper digestion of food including breaking it down properly so that you can fully benefit from the nutrients it contains.

Use of these pills creates a situation in your stomach called achlorhydria (see this) - basically low stomach acid.  There are a lot of potential side effects as well (see this example).

The WSJ article reveals that for the most part doctors are not even sure what causes GERD or if their advice on, for example, what to eat and not eat, is correct.

There are a couple of simple mechanism I have found to cause indigestion:

- Eat too much rich food too fast.  (Need to stay awake on a long drive?  Eat a lot quickly so you have indigestion - I've found indigestion much more effective than coffee and caffeine to keep you awake and alert).

- Eat too much rich food right before bead.

- Eat a lot of hot peppers.

Its pretty much a no-brainer to avoid these issues.

But what about the 7% of all Americans that suffer from indigestion every day?

My guess is that their diet is bad, i.e., they eat the wrong foods in the wrong amounts at the wrong times of the day.  Not enough fresh vegetables, too much processed food, too many bad oils, those sorts of things.

Big pharma has seized upon the problem to create a $14 billion USD market here in the US for proton pump inhibitors alone.

Doctors prescribe these medications like candy for any hint of digestive problems.

Little wonder nearly half of all those taking them are not helped.

And there is good reason to believe they are not healthful at all.

Personally I have noticed that doctors seem to act is if they are TV commercials regarding these types of commonly prescribed/recommended drugs.   You ask questions and basically get the feeling that they really know as much as you (who watches TV ads) do and are simply regurgitating it (no pun intended).

I've also not had indigestion for many years.

I used to get it frequently but then I ate a terrible diet, ate at the wrong times and so on.

But no longer.  And with zero medication.

One is reminded of Barry Marshal, the Nobel prize-winning Australian Physician who discovered that peptic ulcers were caused by bacteria and not diet and lifestyle.  No one for a decade really believed what he was saying even though he could induce and cure himself of peptic ulcers.

Personally I believe that eating right is the key - one which medical science remains truly ignorant of.

Like obesity, indigestion is a symptom of a larger dietary issues in our society.

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